For­get logic, greed knows no rea­son

The Labradorian - - EDITORIAL - IN OTHER WORDS

At what point — af­ter be­ing forced to change their plan so many times it now only re­motely re­sem­bles the pro­posal they sub­mit­ted for en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ment — will the mis­guided pro­po­nents of the Lower Churchill hy­dro­elec­tric pro­ject fi­nally bow to logic? When will they ad­mit that it is too de­struc­tive and will never sell enough elec­tric­ity to pay for it­self?

The an­swer? Never. At no point will th­ese peo­ple ever con­cede that it’s a hor­ri­bly bad idea and is be­ing ter­ri­bly im­ple­mented. They seem blind to the im­pend­ing nat­u­ral harm and to the bankruptcy it could force onto the prov­ince. No crit­i­cism, no mat­ter how clear and true, ever ap­pears to of­fer them any jus­ti­fi­ca­tion to shut down the pro­ject be­fore any more pub­lic money is wasted.

Cost and con­se­quence play lit­tle part in how the pro­po­nents as­sess the value of build­ing dams at Muskrat Falls — at least not as or­di­nary tax­pay­ers would ex­pect. When op­po­nents op­pose the pro­ject they do so partly for sen­ti­men­tal rea­sons (beauty and cul­ture be­ing more pre­cious than in­dus­try), but they ground their op­po­si­tion on rea­son. They use logic. That’s their mis­take. The pro­po­nents — that is, the PC/Nal­cor/SNC-Lavalin part­ner­ship, along with an as­sort­ment of co-opted may­ors and other politi­cians — counter ev­ery­thing with cir­cu­lar il­logic, chang­ing their ra­tio­nale as of­ten as needed to jus­tify the unchecked dis­per­sal of con­struc­tion and pro­ject-sup­port con­tracts.

The elec­tric­ity from Muskrat Falls has no out­side mar­ket? Not true, said the pro­po­nents. We can sell it in New Eng­land, even though the mar­ket rates are triple the cost of pro­duc­tion. Be­sides, we don’t need to sell it to the USA, not with new mines open­ing nearby. We orig­i­nally had no in­ten­tion of sell­ing Muskrat power in Labrador and have no plans to run trans­mis­sion lines west­wards? Ir­rel­e­vant! The min­ing com­pa­nies will be able to buy cheaper elec­tric­ity from Que­bec un­less tax­pay­ers sub­si­dize them? Unim­por­tant!

We can al­ways sell the power to the Mar­itimes. We’ve en­sured that mar­ket by giv­ing away 20 per cent of the power free to Nova Sco­tia. They want an­other 40 per cent at a frac­tion of the pro­duc­tion cost, or no deal? No mat­ter! We’ll just sub­si­dize those Nova Sco­tians as well. We could also just build the un­der­sea trans­mis­sion line to some­where else — maybe New Brunswick. A mi­nor de­tail! Be­sides, we don’t need the Mar­itimes or their money. We can use all the power on the is­land and we’re sure that New­found­lan­ders and Labrado­ri­ans will be over­joyed to pay for the whole pro­ject them­selves — or rather to pay for some of it and to pass on the mas­sive debt to their chil­dren and grand­chil­dren. They won’t mind los­ing their pub­lic ser­vices. Who needs health care, ed­u­ca­tion, roads, or fer­ries when there’s mil­lions to give away ev­ery day to a large Que­bec- based megapro­ject man­age­ment com­pany?

And don’t for­get: we’ve got a fed­eral loan guar­an­tee that might save us a bil lion or two on in­ter­est charges. The guar­an­tee isn’t guar­an­teed? We trust Ot­tawa. The guar­an­tee might not sur­vive the col­lapse of the Nova Sco­tia deal and the var­i­ous court ac­tions launched by the gov­ern­ments of Que­bec, Nu­natsi­avut and Nu­natuKavut? Again, none of it makes any dif­fer­ence. No court in the land will rule against us — ex­cept for the ones that al­ready have, but they don’t count. Be­sides, even if the in­ter­est rates go up, this prov­ince’s res­i­dents will be happy to pay the ex­tra cost. Weren’t you lis­ten­ing?

Wind power is cheaper? Not so! We have no proof, but we’re sure it’s more ex­pen­sive than megahy­dro.

The North Spur clay wall may col­lapse? No, it won’t. Trust us!

Abo­rig­i­nal rights vi­o­lated? Nu­natuKavut peo­ple aren’t na­tive, not ac­cord­ing to the provin­cial govern­ment.

Mer­cury con­tam­i­na­tion? That’s silly: the Inuit live too far away.

Lit­tle ben­e­fit for lo­cals? We’re hir­ing New­found­lan­ders, aren’t we?

Ar­gu­ing against the Lower Churchill pro­ject on the ba­sis of its eco­nomic and en­vi­ron­men­tal il­logic is point­less. The ma­jor­ity of peo­ple in sup­port stand to per­son­ally gain from it in some way, ei­ther po­lit­i­cally or fi­nan­cially. The more money it costs, the more they make. Their in­ter­est ends once the last con­struc­tion bill is paid. Why should it mat­ter to them that they’ve built an un­sta­ble, poi­sonous, money-los­ing dam?

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